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Lawmakers Voice Support For NASA Moon Program 206

Posted by CmdrTaco
from the where's-my-moon-rocks dept.
Matt_dk writes "Members of a key Congressional committee on Tuesday voiced support for NASA's Constellation program, designed to get astronauts back to the moon. The comments came a week after an expert panel said NASA's plans were not possible, given its current budget. The occasion was an appearance by Norman Augustine, head of a committee formed to consider the future of human space exploration. The Augustine committee sent a summary report to the White House last week saying NASA needs at least an extra $3 billion a year to implement the Constellation moon program. The report also included several alternatives to that program. At a feisty session on Tuesday, Congress was having none of those alternatives, starting just minutes into the two-hour hearing."
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Lawmakers Voice Support For NASA Moon Program

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  • Talk is cheap (Score:5, Insightful)

    by elrous0 (869638) * on Friday September 18, 2009 @09:36AM (#29465541)

    "Voicing support" doesn't mean jack squat. Put your money where your mouth is or sit down. For WAY too many years now, Congress and various presidential administrations have "voiced supprt for NASA and made grand promises about building moon bases, going to Mars, etc. But they've turned around and quietly kept the same anemic budget that's been in place since Nixon axed their budget after Apollo. And, for all the grand promises, all NASA has actually delivered were a few probes, a low orbit space station, and a "reusable" spacecraft that can only go into low orbit and has to be rebuilt after each mission. Politicians have coasted on bullshit promises for decades now, and NASA has been all too willing to go along with it.

    This committee report is the first time that someone has so publicly pointed out what should have been obvious for a long time now--that NASA isn't going ANYWHERE on the current budget. So either give them the budget they need or own up to the fact that the era of manned space exploration is over. Either way, stop wasting resources on money sinks like the ISS and a pointless shuttle program. They're little more than giant PR programs.

    • Re:Talk is cheap (Score:5, Insightful)

      by KillerBob (217953) on Friday September 18, 2009 @09:49AM (#29465675)

      Either way, stop wasting resources on money sinks like the ISS and a pointless shuttle program.

      You do realize that:
      1) The ISS is an international cooperation, an important starting point for manned deep space exploration as the cost will be prohibitive for any single nation? The PR it's worth isn't in the public eye, it's in the eyes of the nations that the US will have to ally itself with in space if it has any hope of getting a more permanent place in space.

      2) The shuttle program is done, with the shuttles expected to be retired in 2010, and that they've been working on a replacement for the shuttle for 10 years, though the short-term solution seems to be to use Soyuz capsules for manned launches? Suggesting that they get rid of the shuttle because it's a load of bullshit promises and tired old technology is a bit redundant when the shuttle has less than a year left before it's permanently grounded.

      Talk *is* cheap. And I honestly don't think that the US government has the stomach for space exploration any more. The people certainly don't... space is a hostile environment. If you feel that any loss of life is completely unacceptable, you'll never get out there, because the environment itself will kill you if you give it a chance. Take every precaution to avoid losing people, but understand and accept that every time you strap yourself to a rocket and blast into space, you're taking risks with your life. It's that 2nd part that the people at large don't seem to understand, and that's why every time there's an accident and somebody dies, the space program loses support.

      • Re:Talk is cheap (Score:5, Informative)

        by Shakrai (717556) on Friday September 18, 2009 @09:54AM (#29465757) Journal

        Talk *is* cheap. And I honestly don't think that the US government has the stomach for space exploration any more. The people certainly don't... space is a hostile environment. If you feel that any loss of life is completely unacceptable, you'll never get out there, because the environment itself will kill you if you give it a chance.

        What makes you think the American people feel that any loss of life is completely unacceptable? Most of the polls that I saw following the Columbia disaster showed an increase in support for the space program. I don't think the American people have a problem with the fact that space flight is an inherently dangerous activity. They do have a problem when incompetence leads to fatalities (who cares what the engineers say about the temperature and o-rings? let's launch!) but there's never been a majority of Americans that would scrap the whole program over them.

        • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

          Talk *is* cheap. And I honestly don't think that the US government has the stomach for space exploration any more. The people certainly don't... space is a hostile environment. If you feel that any loss of life is completely unacceptable, you'll never get out there, because the environment itself will kill you if you give it a chance.

          What makes you think the American people feel that any loss of life is completely unacceptable? Most of the polls that I saw following the Columbia disaster showed an increase in support for the space program. I don't think the American people have a problem with the fact that space flight is an inherently dangerous activity. They do have a problem when incompetence leads to fatalities (who cares what the engineers say about the temperature and o-rings? let's launch!) but there's never been a majority of Americans that would scrap the whole program over them.

          I agree that most Americans don't care about the loss of life. What we do care about is "wasting" money. It sounds horrible but that's America. And, so, I think many, many people in America think human space exploration is a waste of money at this time. Of course, I'm sure the general contractors in these congressional districts feel differently and that's why you are hearing so much noise about it in Congress right now. As usual what happens in Congress has nothing to do with what the people that elec

      • Re:Talk is cheap (Score:5, Interesting)

        by TheGreenNuke (1612943) on Friday September 18, 2009 @10:10AM (#29465961)

        The oceans are also a hostile environment. Yet we designed a submarine for about $6B and currently buy new ones (1 a year at the moment) for under $3B each. When was the last time the nuclear Navy has had an accident? That would be the USS Scorpion in 1968. Only twice in the history of the nuclear Navy has there been accidents resulting in the loss of life, both in the '60's. The Navy also has many more platforms, operate far more frequently, and are designed and built (nuclear construction too) for less than NASA wants to go to the moon. NASA needs to trim the fat and improve safety if that want to keep support levels high.

        You also say that you take a risk every time you strap yourself to a rocket and blast into space. Well you also take a risk every time you strap your self to a car, get on a bike, bus, train, etc. But you have to trust that things have been designed properly and the operator is paying attention to what they're doing. If you want a life without risk, good luck finding it. The key is to make sure the proper steps are taken to mitigate those risks.

        • Re:Talk is cheap (Score:5, Insightful)

          by Raffaello (230287) on Friday September 18, 2009 @10:20AM (#29466063)

          But there's an important difference between space and the deep ocean. The energetic cost of getting a kilo of payload into space are several orders of magnitude larger than they are for getting the equivalent payload size into the deep ocean. Because of this we can afford to overbuild and over-engineer submersibles in a way that we cannot possibly hope to do for space vehicles where every gram costs us dearly. As a result, any space vehicle of a reasonable cost (read billions rather than trillions) will be inherently more risky, because it will be, by comparison with the submersible, built to the absolute minimum engineering tolerances for strength, durability, etc., Basically, anything that adds weight will be built to the absolute minimum tolerance on a space vehicle. A submersible will be significantly overbuilt for hull strength, resistance to pressure, etc. because the cost of moving this extra weight around under water is much, much lower, than the cost of sending the equivalent extra weight into orbit.

      • Re:Talk is cheap (Score:5, Insightful)

        by camperdave (969942) on Friday September 18, 2009 @10:18AM (#29466051) Journal
        Part of the problem is that when NASA shows its astronauts, it typically shows them doing pointless zero-G tricks. Tra-la-la, space is play. What NASA needs is a good PR team. Emphasize the danger. Emphasize the rigorous training. Show astronauts as the highly trained professionals that they are, rather than as a bunch of clowns on a high tech pleasure cruise.
        • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

          Emphasize the danger.

          Right on. The American public really isn't anti-danger, look at NASCAR.

          It's good for society to have dangerous hobbies and send their bravest souls into danger. That way the rest of the population can live vicariously through them. It's either that, or start a war or two every now and then. Imagine the resource of the latest war were spent on space exploration. We'd have a space elevator by now.

          • Emphasize the danger.

            Right on. The American public really isn't anti-danger, look at NASCAR.

            Screw NASCAR. It should be more like "The Deadliest Catch... In SPACE!"

          • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

            by SteveFoerster (136027)

            Imagine the resource of the latest war were spent on space exploration. We'd have a space elevator by now.

            Or, for the cost of 57 days of the war, we could have had a launch loop [wikipedia.org], which would be cheaper, wouldn't expose passengers to anywhere near as much radiation, and wouldn't require unobtanium.

      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        by vtcodger (957785)
        You equate "space exploration" with "manned space exploration". That's not very insightful. Human beings are a really, really, lousy information detection and collection device. Supporting them in space is very difficult and costs a fortune. Any sensible engineer would instantly reject a robot design for space exploration that resembled a human being. And people are unlikely to be able to explore Venus, Jupiter, etc for many decades -- maybe not ever. So here's a thought. Instead of exploring space w
        • by vtcodger (957785)

          Drat -- forgot to click "Plain Old text". Let's try again.

          You equate "space exploration" with "manned space exploration". That's not very insightful. Human beings are a really, really, lousy information detection and collection device. Supporting them in space is very difficult and costs a fortune. Any sensible engineer would instantly reject a robot design for space exploration that resembled a human being. And people are unlikely to be able to explore Venus, Jupiter, etc for many decades -- maybe not eve

          • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

            by KillerBob (217953)

            And people are unlikely to be able to explore Venus, Jupiter, etc for many decades -- maybe not ever.

            There's a very good reason to think in terms of manned deep space exploration: manned deep space colonization. Something about putting all your eggs in one basket. If something happens to this planet, or this solar system, we're screwed. Now, we're a long way away from being interstellar, but we should at least start trying to be interplanetary now.

            Manned space exploration isn't about the human gathering inf

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Shakrai (717556)

      Either way, stop wasting resources on money sinks like the ISS and a pointless shuttle program. They're little more than giant PR programs.

      That's extremely unfair. The shuttle hasn't lived up to it's original billing (cheap, reusable) or flown as many flights as was envisioned but to claim it's nothing more than a giant PR program is rather dismissive of everything that it has accomplished. No shuttle == no hubble repair mission == no hubble for the last 15 years.

      • The shuttle isn't really reusable. Large parts of it are replaced every launch and the complex parts are stripped down and rebuilt. The shuttle has quite a low flight ceiling and was designed to recover satellites from orbit and bring them back down; something that no shuttle mission has ever actually done. A reusable space plane would have been useful, but the shuttle definitely does not fall into that category. Lots of parts on the shuttle are now ridiculously heavy (driving up the per-launch costs) i
    • Stopping such programs will make them that much harder to start again. If you say Lets stop the ISS and shuttle program then when it come back to a point where Man space travel looks more promising then they will go well look at earlier 21st century we canceled Man Space Flight because it was a wast of resources why should we start it again. Vs keeping it on life support right now so when if/when interest kicks back up it will be an easier sell to just raise the budget.

      • by elrous0 (869638) *
        Low orbit missions are hardly cutting edge. And there is very little the space shuttle or ISS can teach us about going to the moon or Mars (that we haven't already learned many years ago anyway). If anything, NASA needs desperately to break out of a low orbit mentality and get back into the Apollo engineering mindset (which has long since been forgotten). ISS and the shuttle are just distractions--largely pointless distractions.
        • by drinkypoo (153816)

          It looks like there's more international interest in the ISS these days. If it continues then just having that continued presence there will allow us to learn lessons, especially if the fantasies of NASA buying modules from Bigelow ever come true. Cheap at twice the price — we need to get off this rock!

        • there is very little the space shuttle or ISS can teach us about going to the moon or Mars (that we haven't already learned many years ago anyway).

          Excuse me,

          Just what was the 1960's "Apollo Engineering Mindset" for getting 2 years worth of fresh water to Mars for each crewmember? How about 2 years worth of Fresh Air? What would you do about bone loss, muscle atrophy for that same time? I leave as an exercise for the reader what the longest time in space was in the 60's but it wasn't anywhere near 2 years a Mars trip would take.

    • "Voicing support" doesn't mean jack squat. Put your money where your mouth is or sit down.

      Yep, and the backlash [csmonitor.com] has already started.

    • by hardburn (141468)

      *golfclap*

      These politicians insist on making that classic bungle of project management, the sunk cost fallacy:

      "NASA has been working for more than four years on the Constellation program, a development program in support of which Congress has invested billions of dollars over that same period," said Science Committee chairman Bart Gordon. "As a result I think that good public policy would tell us that there needs to be a compelling reason to scrap what we've invested our time and money in over the past several years."

      If they want to continue Constellation, that's fine, but it needs to:

      • Ignore sunk costs
      • Keep the ISS running past 2015
      • Scrap Ares I and focus on Ares V

      The ISS already has a lot of sunk costs behind it, too. The argument here should be what it can achieve if the project is extended out. If we knew how the project would unfold back in 1995, I don't think the ISS would have continued past a conceptual ph

    • Re:Talk is cheap (Score:5, Insightful)

      by Graymalkin (13732) on Friday September 18, 2009 @11:39AM (#29467081)

      I know its in vogue to bash the Shuttle and ISS but you really need to do some research. They both have their problems but they are far from being pointless. At the most basic level the ISS has taught us how to design and build a large structure that needs to be assembled in space. Future long term missions require this domain knowledge. The most Apollo era technology achieved was very basic two-craft docking (Apollo CM-LM, Apollo-Soyuz, Apollo CM-Skylab). The ISS is also what has enabled the private manned launch industry. SpaceX would have nowhere to go and nothing to do if it weren't for the ISS. The ISS can house and bus experiments that aren't tied to a single manned mission meaning extremely long term experiments can be run without needing to design and build a new long duration spacecraft. The Space Shuttle despite its flaws can lift twenty tons of cargo the size of a school bus along with seven astronauts in a single launch. No other current or past spacecraft can boast that capability. This capability allowed the Shuttle to launch satellites, perform five Hubble servicing missions, perform dozens of SpaceLab missions, and build the ISS.

      You talk about LEO like getting there is a bad thing. LEO is a great place to do space science without getting your crew killed. LEO has the benefit of Earth's magnetic field which protects astronauts from heavy doses of solar radiation. The presence of the magnetic field obviates some amount of shielding a manned mission might otherwise need which means more spacecraft mass can be dedicated to experimentation. It's also much cheaper (relatively speaking) to get a lot of mass into LEO than it is into other orbits. Getting something the size of the Space Shuttle into a MEO or GEO would be extremely difficult to do with a single launch. The LEO environment is then a great place to perform long duration manned missions to figure out how the hell to keep a crew alive and sane on a mission to Mars or a NEO. LEO is also a good place to learn and practice techniques for building things reliably in space. We're learning how to get a crew to Mars or a NEO by orbiting "pointlessly" in LEO, the skills learned in orbit will be useful on NEO and Mars missions. The altitude of the orbit isn't quite as important as the skills learned while you were there.

  • by FTWinston (1332785) on Friday September 18, 2009 @09:38AM (#29465559) Homepage
    Augustine explains the

    mismatch between the task to be performed and the funds that are available to support those tasks

    And congress reject this. They call this "voicing support?" Sounds like a death sentence to the higher-ups at NASA to me...

    • by mrdoogee (1179081)

      Its just more of the same. Congress won't kill the program, but they'll just whittle the budget down every time its possible until its just a token effort, if it hasn't become that already.

      If that's the way it has to be, I'd rather see NASA dismantled. Take the $3 bil budget, save half of it and make the other half into grants for private space exploration companies. 3 billion may be chicken scratch for a big gov't agency like NASA, but 1.5 billion is a buttload for Scaled Composites, or even Virgin. NASA c

  • by Nadaka (224565) on Friday September 18, 2009 @09:44AM (#29465609)

    and utterly failed to provide funding for it. Its no wonder that NASA does not have enough money to complete the project. If this results in a funding increase for NASA, it will be a start. Even if it is only a tiny baby step.

    • To be fair, there is that little matter of paying for the invasion and occupation of a foreign country for political purposes.

      After all, if you're going to spend a trillion dollars sending troops overseas to nation build, that does tend to put a crimp in the budgets of other projects.

      • To be fair, there is that little matter of paying for the invasion and occupation of a foreign country for political purposes.

        After all, if you're going to spend a trillion dollars sending troops overseas to nation build, that does tend to put a crimp in the budgets of other projects.

        To be even fairer, the President doesn't do the budget, Congress does.

        And if you're spending a trillion dollars sending troops overseas to nation build, then an extra 0.3% is peanuts.

  • by moon3 (1530265) on Friday September 18, 2009 @09:47AM (#29465653)
    Do we believe that future of space exploration is in the hands of some government agency ? I look more at the X-Prize winners and similar developments for whatever space future we might be getting into.
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by El Jynx (548908)
      Not really. Such projects should be gov-supported, only opener, although I guess with international teams all over the place now, that counts as progress in international terms. But going back to the moon just for the moon's sake, come on, we've got other fish to fry. One of the things that pisses me off is that there's no central organisation specifically aimed at hunting and tracking down incoming asteroids. There's still too many "oops, didn't see that one coming!" cases, and sooner or later the near-mis
      • by Kjella (173770)

        Earth is a Single Point of Failure for the human race.

        Even a dinosaur killer plus wouldn't take out the human race - more people would survive in deep bunkers here on Earth and with better chances of long-time survival than on an off-planet colony, same with a gamma ray burst. Which by the way would probably be wide enough to take out Mars too. And while humanity can be pretty destructive, I don't think we'd manage to kill off everyone. The only SPOF-threat is really a rock big enough to destroy earth, which is of course possible we could just as easily have s

    • by Nyeerrmm (940927)

      Unfortunately, private ventures only make sense when theres a strong chance of profit. In those cases where exploration involved more than walking a little bit further (at which point a motivated individual could do it), it has always initially relied on government funding and support.

      The great age of exploration in Europe was all initially government funded*. Only after routes were discovered and the land scouted out did for-profit groups begin to take charge -- even then they tended to be mercantilist p

  • Just get on with it (Score:3, Interesting)

    by MrKaos (858439) on Friday September 18, 2009 @09:49AM (#29465665) Journal

    Well I'm glad they said it. We can frig around with this platform or that platform based on the merits of xyz and sure direct is probably a better launcher and solid fuel launchers are probably bad but haven't we learned the lessons from scraping the Saturn V launchers yet?

    Pick a platform, with all it warts, short of fundamental design flaws, and keep developing it.

    I think the 747 was being developed around the same time as the Saturn V launchers, look how far it has come. Imagine if Boeing decided to chuck all that development work away and start again - they'd be bankrupt.

    Time to get on with it.

    • >>>Boeing [would] be bankrupt.

      No they wouldn't. If Boeing was like government they'd have a monopoly on your wallet, and be able to sustain themselves by sucking dollars out of it, even when they are producing an old obsolete 1960s product. Kinda like how Amtrak operates now. Or how the Government-Tribant monopoly operated in East Germany (smelly belchy oil-burning cars).

      Where there is no competition, and you have direct access to funds, there is no need to innovate.

    • Pick a platform, with all it warts, short of fundamental design flaws, and keep developing it.

      I especially like the way VADM Joe Dyer, Chairman of NASA's Aerospace Safety Advisory Panel (ASAP) put it:

      We note that the Review of U.S. Human Space Flight Plans Committee summary report compares current plans for the Constellation program with a number of conceptual alternatives. Here, we offer a word of caution -- PowerPoint presentations addressing future programs will always out shine current programs of record. Why is that the case? It is because current programs have garnered the professional peer and public review during the accomplishment of real work. Technical challenges will have been discovered, cost stress will have been revealed, and the reality of conducting high risk business in an unforgiving environment will have been highlighted and publicized. Future concepts do not yet have the benefit of this reality testing. This experience led to one of the ASAP's prime recommendations presented to the Review of U.S. Human Space Flight Plans Committee. Specifically, the ASAP believes that if Constellation is not the optimum answer, then any other new design must be substantially superior to justify starting over.

  • by 0100010001010011 (652467) on Friday September 18, 2009 @09:49AM (#29465669)

    $636B. [wikipedia.org] More than the sum of ALL OTHER COUNTRIES combined.

    This is like walking around with $600 in your pocket and giving a bum on the street $3.

    • The USA also spends more on space if you combine NASA, DoD, NRO expenditures than the rest of the world combined.
      • Whether or not we're spending more than anyone else, we're not spending anywhere close to what it would cost actually do the missions we've set out to do. On the other hand, we are wasting an enormous amount of money in buying way more defense capability than we could possibly ever need. The GP is arguing (I think) that we ought to cut the defense budget and divert some of the money into space exploration.
    • if anything it furthers space technology more than it hinders it.

      We also spend more on new buildings/bridges/parks named after living government officials than on NASA.

      Does NASA get votes?

      Answer that and you have found the real reason.

    • by Shakrai (717556)

      More than the sum of ALL OTHER COUNTRIES combined.

      What's your point? We could spend the money in other ways? Yeah, maybe. Unless the world destabilized and we had to step in at a later date and spend even more money to pick up the pieces.

      This is like walking around with $600 in your pocket and giving a bum on the street $3.

      So NASA is a homeless bum in your world view? Maybe we should tell them to get a job ;)

      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by Abcd1234 (188840)

        What's your point? We could spend the money in other ways? Yeah, maybe. Unless the world destabilized and we had to step in at a later date and spend even more money to pick up the pieces.

        Yes. Because a) the US stepping in to other countries in order to stabilize things has worked so very well so far, and b) no other nations could possibly work together with the US to address international issues in a multilateral way.

        And this is ignoring the fact that the US military blows obscene amounts of money on poi

      • by 0100010001010011 (652467) on Friday September 18, 2009 @10:22AM (#29466083)

        What's your point? We could spend the money in other ways?

        The Apollo program was nothing more than a pissing match. We tossed 13 years we dumped $145B (in 2008 $). That's $11B a year, or $8B more than we're spending now.

        Imagine if we spent $600B PER YEAR on finding alternative energy. Imagine if we spent $600B in one year on NASA. We'd be at Mars within 5 years. We slapsticked the Moon mission together in, what now looks like record time.

        Universal health care would cost an estimate $70B. $70. For ~1/10th of what we spend blowing people up we could give every man woman and child in America full health care.

        • by Shakrai (717556)

          Imagine if we spent $600B PER YEAR on finding alternative energy. Imagine if we spent $600B in one year on NASA. We'd be at Mars within 5 years. We slapsticked the Moon mission together in, what now looks like record time.

          You must be a Democrat if you think that merely throwing large amounts of money at a problem is all that is required to solve it. You could write NASA a blank check tomorrow and it would still take more than 5 years to get to Mars. You think you can design, build and test a spacecraft overnight? You think you can train the guys who will fly it overnight?

          Universal health care would cost an estimate $70B. $70. For ~1/10th of what we spend blowing people up we could give every man woman and child in America full health care.

          The problem with our health care system isn't a lack of money. The problem with our health care system is that large bureaucracies (Governmental and co

          • by 0100010001010011 (652467) on Friday September 18, 2009 @11:00AM (#29466581)

            I'm not debating that health care in this country is a cluster fuck. I'm not debating that it's over priced and that it's being fucked up by bureaucracies.

            I'm just saying. Even with all those problems we could easily toss a fraction of spending we spend on the military and do it.

            And they went from 0 to the moon in 8 years. 8 years. Before the internet. Before CAD/CAM. Before software simulation. It used to take my company almost a decade to design a new product. You'd have to draft everything by hand. I guess we used to employ a courier service to go between our buildings and do nothing but carry drawings. Even then it'd take a day or two sometimes for another division to get them and change them and send them back.

            I don't think 5 years is unreasonable if we threw our unconditional support behind it.

            • by Shakrai (717556)

              I don't think 5 years is unreasonable if we threw our unconditional support behind it.

              I disagree, though I'd love to be proven wrong. How long did it take from conception to completion to design, build and test the A380? Presumably with the full benefit of the internet, CAD/CAM and everything else that you mentioned. Do you think that a space craft capable of going to Mars and returning would be less complicated than the A380?

              Ten years is probably more reasonable though I think we'd both agree that neither timeline is realistic with the current amount of funding that NASA receives.

              • Well that was my point. The "current amount of funding" isn't enough. With 600B, I think it could be done.

                Second, my company takes 10 years to design new engines. It's an engine, how hard could that be? Problem is both us and Airbus are public companies. We have to deal with 'profit' and we can't throw everyone behind one project, etc.

          • I think the democrat jab was pretty damn unwarranted. Only dems have had balanced budgets in the last 40? years maybe 50. In fact the last few reps in power have one by one been the biggest spenders of all time and have caused the largest increase in debt of all time only to be outdone by their successors. Please do keep this in mind.
        • by barzok (26681)

          Imagine if we spent $600B PER YEAR on finding alternative energy

          We've already found lots of alternative energy. It's capturing that energy, then overhauling our entire infrastructure to best use it, that we haven't managed to do well yet.

    • by KillerBob (217953) on Friday September 18, 2009 @10:01AM (#29465851)

      This is like walking around with $600 in your pocket and giving a bum on the street $3.

      Not quite. You need to give that bum on the street some more credentials... he's living from meal to meal, and sometimes goes 2 or 3 days between chances to eat. Oh, and he's a former Nobel laureate, and invented things like Velcro and Kevlar, without which the military's equipment wouldn't be anywhere near as effective as it is....

    • Money wasted on only one step of the "bailout" - $787 billion.

              Brett

    • by Yvanhoe (564877)
      What is funny is that the rest of the world spend their army money on developing things to counter American devices !
    • This is like walking around with $600 in your pocket and giving a bum on the street $3.

      No, it's like having a $600 credit card balance at the end of the month after your paycheck has come in and you've paid all your bills, and saying "well, I'm $600 in debt from fighting my neighbor and giving gifts to all my roommates. What's another $3 on this scifi movie?"

      It's another $3 you don't have, that's what.

  • Seriously (Score:2, Insightful)

    by judolphin (1158895)
    I'm all for research and exploration within reason. Satellites, observation of the universe via things like the Hubble telescope, etc. to find out more about the nature of the universe we live in is great stuff.

    But doesn't the federal government have more pressing issues at this time than building a Motel 6 on the moon?

    P.S. Don't take the last sentence literally, please.
  • $12 trillion (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Carl_Stawicki (1274996) on Friday September 18, 2009 @09:56AM (#29465795)
    The national debt is almost $12 trillion (for reasons legitimate or not, depending on your views). As cool as the thought is, the moon can wait. The best thing the gub'ment can do at this moment is to not interfere with private space endeavors.
    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by Anonymous Coward
      Insightful my ass. NASA's budget is less than 1% of the federal budget. Let's say you managed to cut it in half. Congratulations, you trimmed less than 0.5%. If you're serious about reducing the deficit, there are much more effective ways to go about it than going after something that makes up less than 1% of the budget.
    • Because the US has no constitutional fiscal mandate, its government will continue to spend as much as it can borrow until an eventual currency collapse. This is an inherent property of democracies: everybody wants something from their government, and they all want different things.

      Since your hope that the public debt might revers is false, your conclusion is false. We will continue to deficit spend, so we might as well get a moon base as well as those multi-billion war machines.

  • on a related note (Score:3, Interesting)

    by jollyreaper (513215) on Friday September 18, 2009 @09:58AM (#29465819)

    Could the ISS use excess electricity from the solar panels along with a tether to maintain altitude?

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tether_propulsion [wikipedia.org]

    The basic idea is you drag the tether through earth's magnetic field. If you pull power off of it, your orbit lowers. If you run energy back through it, your orbit rises.

    My only guess is they don't have a lot of excess capacity on the ISS and so lack the power to run with this.

    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by DerekLyons (302214)

      My only guess is they don't have a lot of excess capacity on the ISS and so lack the power to run with this.

      They have the spare power - they don't have the luxury of being able to remain in one attitude long enough for the tether to make a difference. (Not to mention that many of the engineering aspects of tether propulsion remain elusive and unsolved.)

  • by socrplayr813 (1372733) on Friday September 18, 2009 @10:03AM (#29465865)

    As a result I think that good public policy would tell us that there needs to be a compelling reason to scrap what we've invested our time and money in over the past several years.

    Compelling? Like an expert panel saying 'this won't work'? What's the point of assembling experts to make recommendations if we're not going to listen to them. I can't say I didn't expect it, but I think it's just pathetic that there apparently wasn't any serious discussion of the alternatives. There may be benefits to going back to the moon, but most of what I've read lately leans toward "I want to relive the glory days when space was new."

    If this finally gets somebody to throw NASA some more funding, then I suppose that's something, but the cost of manned missions is staggering. There's so much interesting and useful science that could be done without having to spend (waste?) resources on consumables and redundant systems for supporting life.

    I actually had high hopes that someone would listen to the recommendations... Reminds me of a poker player that doesn't know how to fold a hand. Sure, we have a chance to get something out of it, but I don't see that the pot odds [wikipedia.org] are not worth it for manned missions right now.

    (Sorry for the poker stuff... no car analogy came to mind)

  • This is all happening at such a horrible confluence of bad timing for NASA. Stimulus package + healthcare overhaul + war + recession = bad time to convince taxpayers to fund moon trips. I support most of the above initiatives, but at the end of the day, there really is only so much money to go around.
    • by JWW (79176)

      You've got that right. What really pisses me off is that of all those things, if it were up to me, I'd fund NASA first.

      Also, the other thing that pisses me off is that NASA's only looking for and extra $3 billion a year. All these other programs have hundreds of billions of dollar pricetags.....

      By the way, it is my sincere belief that if NASA whithers away and dies, there will be no amount of money that can be spent by the government that will be enough to encourage students to be more interested in scien

  • by SuperBanana (662181) on Friday September 18, 2009 @10:20AM (#29466073)

    http://www.google.com/hostednews/ap/article/ALeqM5iWWPT8cAUpUCsmOZoABze-6XhwTAD9ALBNU00

    We're in the deepest recession since 1930, and have run up $1.38 Trillion in debt, people- and that's not all from the two wars we're fighting.

    The administration is forecasting a $9 Trillion budget deficit [nytimes.com] within ten years, a figure the Congressional Budget Office agrees with.

    "Only $3BN more" you say? That's a +15% increase of NASA's budget. "Oh, only 15%", you say. Well, guess what happens after 1000 federal agencies and projects have come to you asking for "only 15% more"? I can't even find a figure for the number of items in the federal budget, but I'm guessing it falls around 10,000 or more.

    Yes, military spending is an order of magnitude larger. That is not an excuse to increase spending for another agency; it is a reason to reduce military spending. That is something that is not easily done, given how dependent our country has become on military spending to employ people, and congresscritters are very allergic to "defense" cuts in their district.

    We need to be trimming from the federal budget, not adding to it any more, except for the most critical needs. Space exploration, while fascinating and a great boost for nationalism, is not a critical need.

    • by Stevecrox (962208)
      Your knee jerk response is typical of whats gotten us into this mess. If America's budget is anywhere near as messed up as the UK's there are places that desperately need trimming and area's which should have increased funding. Ignoring the fact that massive sweeping cuts to public services will only cause the economy to fall back into recession.

      Lets take the NHS (not popular in the US I know) our biggest problem is the amount of management layers that have been injected into hospitals over the years and
      • Your knee jerk response is typical of whats gotten us into this mess. If America's budget is anywhere near as messed up as the UK's there are places that desperately need trimming and area's which should have increased funding. Ignoring the fact that massive sweeping cuts to public services will only cause the economy to fall back into recession.

        Huh? Aren't we saying the same thing? Your post was so full of wandering gibberish and bad grammar & punctuation that I couldn't tell.

    • That is something that is not easily done, given how dependent our country has become on military spending to employ people

      In case you hadn't noticed, all of that military spending also keeps your ass safe from the multitude of violent people who would like nothing better than to have what you have...by whatever means necessary. If it costs a few extra bucks to smoke Ali Kaboom's ass in Waziristan before he shows up over here in a shopping mall with an AK-47 and an explosive belt then I say so be it. Remember that Ali Kaboom doesn't want to negotiate with you. He doesn't want you to understand his problems or reasoning. You are

      • Stay rational (Score:3, Insightful)

        by wonkavader (605434)

        A reasonable military budget keeps us safe. A massive military budget makes us look for reasons to us it, involves us in foreign wars, and sinks our economy under a burden of debt.

        What you really want, if you're frightened "Ali Kaboom", as you put it, is a massive intelligence budget and an intelligence system run by practical people willing to include talent wherever it exists. Then you add on top of that a military with enough punch to make people hurt if we find out something we don't like.

        That's a lot

  • Frankly, it's gotten dumb and narrow. There's nothing on the moon that *matters.*
    .
    How about making long-term livable space environments (i.e. containing viable organic ecologies) and not some dimwitted ground-dependent space station? How about making economically viable solar power in near earth orbit and selling it at a profit? How about setting up a few thousand square miles of adjustable mirrors to reversibly control global temperature?
    .
    Uses for space like these *matter*. F*** the moon. F*** all that gra

  • by mikeee (137160)

    You don't understand - this isn't about science, or space travel, this is about pork, pure and simple. NASA has turned into a jobs program, and easy cash for contractors based in the states of these key congressmen - to the point where now, despite their huge budget, they really can't do anything useful in terms of launch.

    The Augustine commission pointed out that the whole current setup is an expensive disaster, but Congress doesn't want to hear it, because they're only interested in keeping the cash flowi

  • I recognize that this is possibly an extremely naive thing to suggest, but what if NASA were to be either co-owned by private investors, or sold outright to a private company?

    Is there a reason that NASA still needs to be a Government operation?

    Given that the key inhibitor to NASA being taken seriously as a "space exploration" organization has been the dire lack of funding over the past three decades, wouldn't it make sense to turn it into a seaparately operated, non-national, extremely well-funded company,

  • Spaceflightnow.com had an article posted about a week ago that had to do with the Augustine commissions initial presentation of the report to once of the congressional science committees. You can read it here [spaceflightnow.com]. There are some interesting remarks made by some of the committee members in that particular article. Specifically, the Arizona representative quoted near the end of the article seems particularly condescending and, well, f***ing stupid.

    I can understand that Congress doesn't want to scrap a current
  • I understand that we want people on the moon. I personally want to go, though I know I never will. But shouldn't we be doing a decade of remote controlled devices and even autonomous ones first?

    What's the point of sending people to the moon when we can do most stuff by robot, until we have a habitation base up there and it's largely self-supporting? Such a base should be built by robots before we send people to live in it, anyway.

    OK, if we could send an inflatable home that would last for many years, I c

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